Friday, 3 July 2015

A Sussex Squacco ... at last

Friday 3rd.  I set out for work and realised as soon as I was halfway down our road that I had forgotten to put my small binoculars in my bag.  Already a bit late it didn't seen worth going back for them, after all it was early July and even after this amazing spring it seemed a safe bet that I wouldn't need them.  Well I got that wrong!  Go back just over 15 years to 10 June 2000 and I set off to visit the Tibetan Plateau (a trip I've yet to blog, watch this space ...).  Unbeknown to me a Squacco Heron was found at Pett and was seem by most of my friends despite being there for just an afternoon and evening, not that I had any regrets (Tibetan Sandgrouse or Squacco isn't really any sort of contest) .  Southern herons were increasing and I felt bound to see one in five years.  The first five years went and the next. A flury of records as the third five years expired had me hoping but the chance seemed to have past us by until Chris Barfield found one at Southease and in quick succession, and knowing my need(!), Matt and Jake phoned to let me know (many thanks guys, very much appreciated as I might not have checked my pager for hours!).  Now I was really regretting having no binoculars, clearly another senior moment.  Should I cycle home, which would take an hour, kit up and drive back to Southease?  Not ideal and neither was cycling there from Falmer although it was doable.  Then I thought of getting a train, it was after all only a km from Souhease station to the bird.  Like old times for me, twitching by train, although it was the first time I had done so with no bins.  Fortunately the birds was on view when I arrived an hour later (only two stops from Falmer but not the most frequent service), and lots of friendly faces who were only too happy to lent me look through there scopes of bins (I think it was 4 of the former and 2 of the latter and I even had tickable naked-eye views when it flew). Brilliant and thanks to all.  It is about 350 in Sussex although I'd probably prefer Least Tern to Hudsonian Whimbrel on the controversial taxonomic states and Ruddy Shelduck, Snow Goose or White-headed Duck to Hooded Merganser or Blue-winged Teal when considering suspect wildfowl.  Very fortunate timing as I'm now away for a few days.

Thursday 2nd.  Turtle Dove but no Water Rails in two hours at Woods Mill from 05:30. Nothing of note walking from Widewater to Lancing Beach and back with Megan.

the Turtle Dove was purring loudly, sad really as I guess it hasn't found a mate
it seemed to be giving it everything it had
a movement near the stream was not a hoped for Water Rail, the water level had fallen a bit since my previous visit so perhaps they were not frequenting it so often?
Wednesday 1st.  Stonechats, Sky Larks and Corn Buntings at Steepdown with Megan but 20 Swifts screaming over the house in the evening stole the show.

Chanctonbury from Steepdown
Cissbury from Steepdown, the rolling downs here are amongst the most scenic in Sussex
Truleigh Hill and Beding Quarry from Steepdown, the latter the one blot on an otherwise almost perfect landscape
Corn Bunting at Steepdown, the best place I know to see them
one of 14 seen on our walk 

Meadow Pipit

Pyramid Orchids near Steepdown
Stonechat at Steepdown
a juvenile was nearby

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Pagham with Frank

Sunday 28th.  Frank Lambert, a good friend of more years than we cared to remember, was visiting his mum in Brighton for a few days on his way back to KL and we had a morning at Pagham.  Between being gripped off by some of his recent travels (450 new birds in 3.5 months in Mexico, Colorado, California and Alaska) and forthcoming tours (PNG, Australia, Sumatra, India) we saw a few birds!  The Hudsonian Whimbrel eventually gave reasonable views while Sidlesham Ferry was nice with a brownish summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 23 Avocets (8 juveniles) and 104 Black-tailed Godwits.  A superb Barn Owl flew across near the Long Pool, a Med Gull, an unreadable North Thames colour-ringed Herring Gull and a Little Tern were in the harbour and a Sand Martin flying around Church Norton was only my third this year!  Late afternoon, at low tide, Megan and I walked around the Adur where 2 Common Sandpipers were unexpected.

Great Crested Grebe and youngster
now rather large for mum to carry on her back
an all-too familiar view of the Hudsonian Whimbrel, not helped by distance or heat-haze
even at this range the long thin, pale based bill and contrasting head pattern was clear

the 'loose' feather had been obvious on a photo I had take two weeks earlier.  Perhaps a bit surprising that it hadn't been lost?

Second calendar-year Mediterranean Gull
Saturday 27th.  A low tide visit to the Adur produced just one Little Egret and a Sussex colour-ringed Herring Gull that flew before I could read it.  Eight Swifts were over our house in the evening.

Friday 26th.  A Peregrine was on Southwick Power Station chimney and a Sandwich Tern offshore. 16 Swifts were over our house in the evening.

Thursday 25th.  An evening visit to Pulborough produced 5 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 Green Sandpipers and 81 Lapwing were on the North Brooks and 2 Nightjars on Wiggonholt Common.

Wednesday 24th.  Megan and I walked up from High Trees to Truleigh Hill.  Several Sky Larks and a Corn Bunting were singing and 15 Swifts and 2 Ravens flew over.

looking west over Upper Beeding and Steyning from Truleigh Hill

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

don't forget to check the phone or pager (23 June Bee-eaters)

Usually when I get in from work I put my phone and pager on the side and settle down to do whatever.  Monday was no exception and it wasn't until I was going to bed after 23:00 that I thought to check them.  Thee and earlier 10 Bee-eaters near Glynde on the pager and a missed call and text from Jake (thanks for trying, much appreciated).  Oh no, what an idiot, why have a pager if you are not going to look at it!!  I didn't sleep well, woke at 03:00 was still awake at 04:00 so got up and went. I arrived at Little Dene at 04:50 not exactly sure where to go but was returning from my first wander around when I noticed four sitting on wires at 05:00.  From then until about 06:15 at least eight were roosting in a large tree, at times quite vocal, making occasional sallies and catching bees with an apparent ease.  A little later they started flying west across the open field to settle on wires and we counted nine and then on two occasions ten.  At 06:34 they all flew up, first nine then the tenth, gaining hight and disappearing very high against the sun to the northeast.  A fantastic experience for the ten birders who witnessed it, our sympathies lie with Alan Kitson who arrived 10 minutes too late.

Nine (of the ten) Bee-eaters and a rather bewildered Mistle Thrush

stunning birds

Sunday, 21 June 2015

very quiet in Sussex, and then a Terek is found ...

Sunday 21st.  A circular walk over Graffham and Duncton Downs with Megan went through some excellent looking woodland and gave some excellent views but was almost birdless with a distant Red Kite, 2 Buzzards and Nuthatch and Yellowhammer heard my only notebook entries.  Traditionally a very quiet time of year and I had not taken my pager so a message about a Terek Sandpiper at Pagham when I got home was quite a surprise.  It was not somewhere I could get to before the tide came in and possibly push it off, and then here were then the Grand Prix highlights on TV ... In the event I didn't leave home until 18:30 but at least there wasn't much traffic on the road, or parking problems at Church Norton.  Only four birders were present when I arrived.  One of them was Jake Everitt who kindly pointed the bird out to me.  Rather distant but OK through a telescope, until it flew out of sight along the main creek.  By now our numbers had grown with the arrival of Lee Evans, closely followed by Dick Filby making it feel like a 1980s twitch.  Dick and I walked to the beach where Dick picked up theTerek at the end of a distant spit, even further away but somewhat atmospheric with Chichester Cathedral in the background.  I had a very distant view of what looked like the Hudsonian Whimbrel and there were 13 Avocets on Sidlesham Ferry where a Cuckoo flew over while I was looking at them.  
Terek Sandpiper in Pagham Harbour
found by top birder Alan Lewis from Hampshire.  Pity it wasn't the Greater Yellowlegs Alan ...

showing its orange-yellow legs, but not much else

Chichester Cathedral in the distance, the Terek was on the left hand central spit
The South Downs Way looking west up Graffham Down
Bexley Hill aerial and Blackdown, the highest point in Sussex, from Tegleaze Tye, near the highest point on the South Downs 
looking east to Chanctonbury Ring and beyond
The South Downs Way looking east to Bignor Hill

Saturday 20th.  A Greenshank was the high light of a low-tide visit to the Adur where a Sandwich Tern and a North Thames Herring Gull was also present - my best visit for ages. Nine Reed Warblers were along the ditch between the river and airport and at least 20 House Martins over Lancing College.

North Thames Herring Gull UU7T on the Adur
Not one I've seen on the Adur before although UT7T was present in august and November 2011

Thursday 18th.  A nice morning for my late South Downs farmland bird survey to the west of the Burgh.  A nice looking area although most of the tracks on my route had hedges planted along them and these have grown up making it hard to see much of the downland where there are no gates. This doesn't present a difficulty seeing Red Kites which were often overhead with at least 4 seen.  It is now vying with Buzzard as the commonest raptor here (I saw at least 4 of each ad a single Kestrel).  Other highlights were two Grey Partridge families, both with nine chicks, two Cuckoos, two Ravens and a male Yellowhammer.  Only one Corn Bunting was seen, after I had finished the survey, and no Meadow Pipits or Lapwing.

female Grey Partridge and seven of her nine chicks

keeping an eye on the more adventurous 

South Downs farmland in delicate shades of green
Arundel Castle
Reed Warbler
singing with its mouth full
easier without
Wednesday 17th.  Megan and I walked up Wolstonbury Hill.  Superb views from the top and a few orchids on the way.  In the evening I called in at Pulborough seeing a male Wigeon, Little Ringed Plover, 38 Lapwings and an adult Nightingale feeding a speckled juvenile.  Three Nightjars were seen at Lavington Common where a Hobby flew over and two or three Woodcock were roding.
fly on a Fly Orchid
Greater Butterfly Orchid and Twayblades
Tuesday 16th.  Twelve Swifts over the house in the evening.